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As children and young people approach the end of their studies, thoughts turn towards the future – becoming an adult, making career decisions, and building on the foundations of existing qualifications, talents, skills, and interests. For many, the world of work may seem as daunting as it is exciting, and it’s certainly helpful to set out with aspirations yet also be flexible and open to new or unanticipated opportunities. 

In the midst of the cost-of-living crisis, it’s a challenging time for those at the start of their careers. The pressure may seem great to aim for what may seem to provide the least risk and greatest financial reward, but it’s important to remember that the current crisis is temporary. It’s more important to identify your strengths and interests and work steadily towards a goal than let negative external factors impact your decisions.

School leavers should also remember they have time on their side to change their mind and alter the course of their career journey, should they have a change of heart. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.  

Why choose an apprenticeship?

Apprenticeship schemes provide an opportunity to join a business and enjoy the benefits of on-the-job training, earning a wage and paid holiday. Through the apprenticeship, which might last for as long as five years depending on the type of work, you’ll also be entitled to study time as part of your working hours.  

Other advantages of an apprenticeship are the educational rewards: matching those of GCSEs, A-Levels and degrees, according to the level sought. Apprentices will benefit from invaluable work experience, gaining insight into their chosen field and overall confidence in a professional environment, along with the chance to network with experts, long before their peers in higher education get the chance. 

There are two types of apprenticeship scheme: the training-focused ‘contract of apprenticeship’ (a fixed-term agreement that cannot be terminated early except for very serious reasons) and the government-framework ‘apprenticeship agreement’, which provides external training and means the apprentice could be dismissed in the same way as a typical employee. 

Students must be at least 16 years old when they start the apprenticeship but can apply beforehand. They must reside in England and not be in full-time education.  

The government website has more information about apprenticeships

Opting out

If you start an apprenticeship and decide it’s not for you, you can quit at any time, just as you would a traditional job. You would be required to inform the employer and work through your notice period, which might be a few days, weeks to a month or more, as stipulated. The apprentice would not be required to pay for any training or exams undertaken or pending. 

Why choose an entry-level job?

An entry-level job equates to the first rung of the career ladder. Many companies are lucky enough to have dedicated, loyal and skilled employees who began their careers in an entry-level role and worked their way up to senior positions.  

As with an apprenticeship, joining a company at a young age can be hugely rewarding for both employee and employer: the new recruit will have a host of expertise at their fingertips from whom to learn and gain an understanding and appreciation of the industry that no textbook can match, while the employer can learn what’s important to young people, helping the business shape its policy, and potentially ushering in a better, more up to date working environment.  

The recruit can also steadily work their way up the ladder, undertake training, familiarise themselves with new software and industry practices and take advantage of opportunities to enhance their role or move into a different area of the business over time. As with apprenticeships, entry-level roles grant networking opportunities which can prove just as important as a CV. Those who show enthusiasm and passion for their work, and whose positivity leaves a lasting impression, are more likely to succeed.  

It’s worth keeping in mind that while employers appreciate good qualifications, certificates won’t get their owner far without tenacity and a genuine interest in their field. If you lack the relevant qualifications for a particular role, keep an eye on job boards for entry-level roles or approaching the company’s HR department direct with an up-to-date CV.  

There will of course be great competition for popular entry-level roles. Students will have a better chance of success if their CV shows evidence of initiative and drive, such as volunteering to gain experience, entrepreneurship, creativity, or a hobby closely aligned to the type of work or industry.  

What types of apprenticeship are available?

Apprenticeships are available across almost every sector. Here’s an overview of what to expect in some of the most popular industries:   

Accounting and finance

In accounting and finance, many organisations welcome apprentices and provide a supportive learning structure to help the apprentice find their feet and build their knowledge. As new digital tools become established across the sector, those with an aptitude for numbers and new technologies will be particularly sought after. An apprenticeship will provide a great opportunity to build digital skills in the exciting early stages of the sector’s digital transformation.  

Apprentices will typically need to have five GCSEs including English and Maths. 

Business support and administration

In business support and administration, apprentices will learn skills related to business operations. Such invaluable insight can make you very attractive in the jobs market and lead to senior management roles. Knowledge gained can also come in handy if you wish to later start your own business. 

Apprenticeship entry requirements vary – some will allow entry without qualifications, but many will require GCSEs, A-Levels or equivalent.  

Engineering & manufacturing

Engineering and manufacturing offer a variety of opportunities for those with curiosity, problem-solving skills, an aptitude for maths and science and an interest in innovation. The engineering sector is in urgent need of younger workers and actively promotes diversity, so now’s the perfect time to apply for an apprenticeship. 

Apprenticeship entry requirements typically require GCSEs in English and Maths, three A-Levels or equivalent. A science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) qualification is sometimes preferred.  

Hospitality & facilities

Careers in hospitality and facilities can be hugely rewarding if you have good communication and people skills, can think on your feet and enjoy practical challenges. Apprenticeships in the sector go hand in hand with business management studies, which can make you more employable as well as give you a more robust foundation across travel, leisure, health and fitness, sport, public sector, events and hospitality.  

Apprenticeship entry requirements vary – some will allow entry with few qualifications, but many will require GCSEs, A-Levels or equivalent.  


The law sector offers an intellectually stimulating, fast-paced career that requires an interest in research, a questioning mind, a can-do attitude and a fearless approach to challenge and confrontation. Apprentices who are bright, tenacious and have good communication skills will find themselves at the start of an exciting career, and will gain expertise is working with clients, drafting documents, data services as well as different aspects of law. 

Apprenticeship entry requirements typically require five GCSEs, and three A-Levels or equivalent.   

Marketing, creative & PR

Anyone seeking an exciting, fast-paced role in marketing, communications or in the creative industries will do well to start as an apprentice. You’ll gain first-hand experience of the latest marketing and comms techniques on the job, see your ideas take shape, and have your pick of the best in the business to help you develop your career. Collaboration is a big part of the industry, so if you have project management and people skills all the better.   

Apprenticeship entry requirements typically require GCSEs in maths and English, and sometimes also A-Levels or equivalent. 


There’s no end to where science can take you. Apprentices can learn much in fields such as medical, food, crime, environmental, chemistry, physics, geology and teaching, learning from world-class experts and making a potentially transformative contribution to society.  

If you have an enquiring mind, a methodical approach, and a passion for research and analysis, an apprenticeship in science could open many doors. 

Apprenticeship entry requirements typically require A-Levels or equivalent, with at least one in a science subject. 


Technology is moving quickly and needs professionals capable of keeping up. As systems change and revolutionise working methods – just think augmented reality – opportunities for skilled IT professionals will continue to grow. As an apprentice, you’ll learn how the latest technologies can be efficiently used in business and experience the thrill of being at the forefront of one of the most exciting, creative industries. Roles vary from IT support and network security to programming, database management, data science and software development. 

If you have a keen interest in how computers work and have an aptitude for problem-solving, a technology apprenticeship may be the first step in an exciting, lucrative and constantly evolving career.   

Apprenticeship entry requirements typically require up to five GCSEs including English and maths, and sometimes A-Levels or equivalent. 

How do apprenticeships work for international students?

International students are welcome to join a UK apprenticeship scheme. The stipulation is that the student must be eligible to work in the UK and have the relevant visa. Before applying, check the apprenticeship vacancy to ensure it meets your expectations, and do contact the university/college and the employer to confirm eligibility. 

How is an apprenticeship financed – can you get a loan? 

Apprentices will earn as they learn, and employers are required by law to pay the National Minimum Wage, while training costs will be covered by the government and the employer for those aged 16-24 years old.  

Student loans are not available as part of apprenticeship schemes, but applications are invited for an Advanced Learner Loan if you are studying/training in England. 

Apprentices will be required to pay for commuting and other living expenses while they are training. 

How do apprenticeships work for students with disabilities? 

Students with disabilities are encouraged to join apprenticeship schemes.  To find out more about how to apply for apprenticeships in England, Disability Rights UK has produced a dedicated guide, ‘Into Apprenticeships’, on how to go about securing a place and what to expect from the apprenticeship. 

What is the average salary for an entry-level role?  

Entry-level salaries vary widely depending on the industry. Some companies will have set salaries for school leavers or may offer the chance for training if the individual shows enthusiasm and aptitude. Tech salaries tend to be higher for example, while it’s not unheard of for salaries to start at less than 20k in some sectors.  

Regardless of the role, employers are required by law to pay the National Minimum Wage.

How can you get an entry-level position with no experience?  

Yes, it is possible, with some sectors offering more opportunities than others. Sales is a good example, where those with a natural aptitude and willingness to learn can find themselves quickly rising through the ranks and commanding competitive salaries. Hospitality jobs are also often available to those with no experience, where individuals can learn the basics, getting a feel for the industry, before taking on more responsibility.  

Volunteering is a great way to improve your CV and can often make for an interesting discussion point at interview. It shows initiative, drive and passion for an area and may well provide the volunteer with transferable skills that will help secure an entry-level role. Be sure to highlight any volunteering achievements and ask the organisation if they can provide references.  

Does undertaking an apprenticeship tie you down to a particular career path? 

The skills you learn during an apprenticeship may go on to influence your whole career, but this doesn’t mean you’re obliged to continue along the career path you set out on.   

There may be a host of reasons why an apprenticeship doesn’t work out – personal and professional – which may not become evident until several weeks or months into the programme. It’s important to ensure you understand the terms of your contract to avoid any legal action around early termination of the apprenticeship.  

For those who complete their apprenticeship, the qualifications gained will place them in good stead to continue their career either with the current employer or elsewhere. And even if you decide the type of work isn’t for you after all, the learning experience you have will likely be invaluable.

Do apprenticeships guarantee a job at the end of them?

There are no guarantees at the end of an apprenticeship – if the employer believes you are an asset to the business, with great potential, it’s highly likely they’ll make you a permanent offer. After all, they’ve invested time and money in your training, and will have to weigh up whether it’s worth losing you only to have to recruit someone new to learn the ropes.  

Don’t be disheartened if the employer doesn’t make an offer – it's just as beneficial to gain experience in another firm to broaden your horizons, learn new skills and expand your network.   

How does Reed help students find an apprenticeship or entry-level role? 

Reed’s own apprenticeship scheme includes a personalised training plan which delivers industry-leading training and dedicated support from our in-house apprenticeships team. 

Reed was the first employer in the UK to have apprentices complete the Recruitment / Resourcer Level 2 qualification, offered alongside our Level 3 Recruitment Consultant apprenticeship. 

Reed has access to the UK’s largest candidate database and expertise across 20 specialist sectors, from accountancy & finance to technology. Those new to the workforce or looking for a career change will have their pick of many exciting entry-level roles among thousands of opportunities on Reed’s books, along with a host of learning resources for jobseekers and employers.

If you are looking for your next role, get in touch with one of our expert consultants today.

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